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# Never Buck The Bookies

International bookmakers Paddy Power have Obama as clear 2/5 favourite to win a second term. Romney trails at 7/4. They cite as reasons for those odds Obama’s clear polling lead among independent voters as well as in swing states and thus in probable Electoral College votes, despite media protestations of a close race because close races sell papers.

### 8 comments to Never Buck The Bookies

• billsandiego

Their numbers don’t make a lot of sense to me. They say that Obama is an “unbackable 1/200 that he is chosen. Hillary Clinton is his closest challenger at 50/1.” Somebody tell me how that works. Is it “1 in 200″ or “1 to 200″ or what? How is Obama being an “unbackable” choice a good thing? How is 1/200 better than 50/1?

For that matter, how is Obama’s 2/5 better than Romney’s 7/4 chance?

I see that whole thing as absolute gibberish, written by someone who was either drunk or certifiable, and possibly both.

• Anonymous

Guide to Fractional Odds

The more traditional fractional odds are often used in the UK. Using the 20% chance example again, the factional odds are 4/1. Fractional odds are saying that for every 1 time you win then 4 times you will lose. Which is the same as saying you have a 20% chance of winning and an 80% chance of losing.

Say you wish to place a bet on an event which has odds of 4/1. If you win, for every pound you stake you will win Â£4 and you will receive your one pound stake back, giving you a total return of 5. If you place a bet of Â£10 at 4/1, then you will win Â£40 and have your Â£10 stake returned, giving a total return of Â£50.

UK odds multiplied with your stake equals the winnings. The odds show how many units you win in terms of winning per unit staked.

• billsandiego

So it’s an upside down fraction: 4/1 mean “one chance out of four.”

Great, So Obama’s “200 chances out of one” is certainly better than Hillary’s “one chance out of fifty,” except that “200 chances out of one” makes no real sense. If it’s the other way around, then Hillary’s “fifty chances out of one” makes equally little sense. Succeeding at something 50 or 200 times each one time you try it is even better than the classic “blivet.”

Obama’s “five chances out of two” would certainly be better than Romney’s “four chances out of seven,” but “five chances out of two” is another blivet.

And why would be be cheering for Obama’s “unbackable” choice as a winner? A gambler would see “unbackable” to mean “don’t bet on this under any circumstances.”

I still say the whole thing is complete gibberish.

• Anonymous

1/200 translates to a win 200 times out of 201 trials, and a 1/201 chance of losing.

It’s expressed as Number of losing times / number of winning times.

unbackable” means that there’s no one to take the opposite side of the bet at those odds…

Whatever you do, don’t gamble in Britain!

• billsandiego

Oh wait, I get it now. You mean Obama would win 200 times and lose once, while Hillary would win one time and lose fifty times; 201 contests for Obama and 51 contests for Clinton. No wonder the British lost the Revolution. Pretty easy bet considering that Hillary is not running and the Democrats have only one name on the primary election ballot.

So does “unbackable” mean something different in English than it does here?

Obama’s 5 wins and 2 losses is 71.2% while Romney’s 4 wins and seven losses is 36.4%, which makes a wider gap than the wierd British odds would portray, and which I do not believe for one second.

Now I would not say it’s gibberisn, I would say it’s idiocy.

• Raja

Nate Silver has numbers that add up to 100%:

Romney: 30.3%
Obama: 69.7%

Roughly equivalent to 71.2% / 36.4%…

• NateTG

Remember that the bookies are in business – that makes the gap bigger.

• Steve Hynd

The bookie is saying Obama is so certain to win the Dem nomination that you’d have to bet a \$200 stake to win \$1 if he succeeds. No one is going to take that bet, so it’s “unbackable”. They say Obama’s chances of winning the general against Romney are a \$5 gets you \$2 bet.

My grandfather taught me never to buck the bookmaker’s odds – a gambler wins once in a while but the bookie wins all the rest of the time from every gambler.